Ballast water management: protecting marine ecosystems

Ballast water management: protecting marine ecosystems

Jul. 28 2022 - 4 min

There are so many things we enjoy about travel – the chance to relax, to discover a new place and its culture. But in the maritime world there are some forms of travel that can have more lasting and detrimental consequences.

In fact, though ballast water is an essential means of stability for ships, it can also serve as a means for non-native species to unwillingly “hitch-hike” to a new ecosystem. And this can have serious consequences for the environment.

A danger to marine ecosystems

Ballast water contains a multitude of marine species that are pumped into the tank at one destination, and released at the next port of call. This can result in the discharge of non-native species, which may threaten marine ecosystems and local wildlife.

In the past, ballast water has led to bio-invasions of toxic algae with the potential to contaminate shellfish destined for human consumption. The European green crab was also introduced to other continents, competing with and displacing native crab species. In light of this concern, in 2017 the IMO implemented the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention.

Increasing IMO regulations

To comply with the convention, ships must have a BWM plan and system in place[1]. On June 1, 2022, amendments to the regulations entered into force, further strengthening requirements for shipowners and operators. The new IMO Resolution MEPC.325(75) calls for an initial survey to verify the following:

An additional survey will then be required after any change in the system to achieve full compliance. The strengthened regulations ensure a stringent approach to ballast water, safeguarding marine ecosystems.

Comprehensive class rules

On July 1, 2022, the IACS Unified Requirements M74 Rev.2 and Bureau Veritas’ new ship Rules – with a section dedicated to BWM[2] – entered into force. These updates detail the complete BWM approval process, from equipment certification to installation and testing surveys on board.

The service suppliers involved in the commissioning testing are approved to the rule NR 533.

EU taxonomy criteria

BWM is also governed by the EU Taxonomy, a classification system for sustainable activities. Under the EU Taxonomy, shipping businesses must meet specific criteria for vessels to be classed as sustainable.

One of the six criteria concerning the “protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems” requires compliance with the IMO convention. If shipowners and operators want their vessels to be deemed sustainable – and therefore be eligible for green financing – BWM will need to be a priority.

Your partner for managing ballast water

Our shared commitment to protecting our oceans and marine ecosystems is what unites us. Bureau Veritas supports ship operators, owners and managers in complying with BWM conventions.

From the beginning of the ship’s lifecycle, we assist you in understanding regulations and developing a BWM plan. We offer technical expertise to aid you with equipment design, onboard installation and system operation with regular surveys to ensure continued compliance.

Bureau Veritas also provides certification services with class and statutory type approval certificates. Several flag administrations have delegated us to issue type approvals. We also assist flags with approval files for BWM systems that make use of active substances, and submitting them to the IMO[3].

By effectively managing ballast water, together we can preserve our marine ecosystems and ensure a more sustainable future for shipping.

[1] At the latest by 8th September 2024 for vessels in service, depending on IOPP certificate renewal.
[2] NR 467 July 2022, Pt C, Ch 1, Sec 12